Leaders December 2013

Diversity in Action

Conveying the varied cultural and commercial fabric of a 21st century nation

It’s been another jam-packed month at the BCCJ, throughout which I’ve been reminded of the important role we play, here in Japan, in highlighting the cultural and commercial diversity of the UK.

On 26 November, I attended the annual gala dinner of the Japan British Society (JBS), at which Ambassador Tim Hitchens encouraged around 160 mainly Japanese guests to share some updates with friends.

“Many of our top companies have foreign CEOs . . . We are very happy to have Japanese, German, French, American, Chinese companies running some of our most sensitive and important sectors: energy, communications, transport networks, nuclear”, Hitchens said.

He reminded the audience that foreign inward investment against gross domestic product in the UK is about 50%, compared with 4% in Japan.

I personally look forward to continuing to serve on the JBS board in 2014, where a number of high-level opportunities exist for strengthening our bilateral partnership.

Earlier the same day, we held the fourth event in our series on Diversity and Inclusion, focusing on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) issues.

With the vast majority of organisations in Japan—including British ones—keeping LGBT initiatives “in the closet”, it was a little challenging to find speakers.

On the day, Barclays plc, QOCCI, Granvia Hotel Kyoto and TELL shared with an audience of around 40 their efforts to engage, both in the workplace and the marketplace, potential LGBT individuals.

An article on the event, moderated by BCCJ Vice-President Suzanne Price, will follow in the January 2014 issue of BCCJ ACUMEN.

In mid-November, Haruno Yoshida, director of BT Japan Corporation, was voted onto the BCCJ Executive Committee, becoming our third female Japanese board member.

At 40% of the total, we now have more women on the Executive Committee than ever before, including President Alison Jambert, the second female president in the BCCJ’s 65-year history.

I consider this rather a feat in Japan, where women account for less than 2% of board members.

At the end of November, I spoke at the Gunma Prefectural Women’s University, as part of their “Working Women in Japan” series, devised by British lecturer Rodney Biddle.

During the Q&A session, I was hugely impressed by the motivation levels of the audience. Around 60 bilingual students all seemed to be hungry for the chance to work in an international environment.

I sincerely hope that these talented young women can help diversify Japan’s workforce and make their country shine on the global stage during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

At the time of writing, we have almost concluded the recruitment period for our membership and marketing position.

We received 121 enquiries, which led to 105 applications representing 28 nationalities, 30 telephone interviews, and a short list of 11 candidates. I look forward to sharing news of our successful candidate before the year-end.

And, as 2013 draws to a close, I would like to thank all BCCJ members and friends for their wide and varied support over the past 12 months. I wish you, your colleagues and families an enjoyable festive season—and a dynamic and diverse 2014.